Directed by Pierre Coré, Belle & Sebastian: Next Generation is a French action-adventure film which is a reboot of the previous Belle & Sebastian film franchise.
Its last adaptation was released a film trilogy between 2013 to 2017. The Belle & Sebastian franchise however dates back to the 60s where the two characters had a TV series on French television in 1965, and a French novel that was based on the TV series titled Belle et Sébastien that was published in 1966 and written by Cécile Aubry. The duo also had multiple animated film and TV spin-offs based on their adventures throughout the years as well.
When ten-year-old city boy, Sébastien (Robinson Mensah Rouanet) gets into trouble and ends up at a police station, his mother Cécile (Caroline Anglade) decides that a change of scenery might help him stop getting in trouble. So, she arranges for Sébastien to spend some time with her sister Noémie (Alice David) and mother Corinne (Michelle Laroque) on their farm.
Sébastien isn’t happy about the arrangement but things change when he has a chance meeting with a huge white female Pyrenean mountain dog named Belle. Sébastien is shocked to discover that she is being mistreated by her owner so he sets her free, but she remains by his side. Sébastien tries to protect Belle from her previous owner and Belle helps Sébastien enjoy his time away from the city, spending time with his family.
I must admit I was not familiar with the Belle & Sebastian franchise before. I really wanted to like the film. I liked the idea of a young kid reluctantly spending time away from the city, saving and befriending a dog. But I don’t think this film quite hit the mark. I believe that this is partly due to a lot of the characters not being very likable. The characters are all flawed and while they do learn some lessons along the way, I found it difficult to be invested in them.
The character that I enjoyed watching the most was Belle, but that isn’t very surprising since I am a dog person. I always worry when I watch a film with a dog or an animal as a main character as I am concerned that there’d be moments where the dog is sad or has been mistreated in the story. While that does happen in this film, it is mostly done off screen. This is still sad, but it is almost tolerable, rather than seeing an animal being harmed on-screen, especially for a softy like me.
Despite being unable to become invested in the characters, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t any strong acting performances. Robinson Mensah Rouanet delivers a very convincing performance for a young actor. You believe that he cares for Belle and that she is his best friend. His character also becomes more bearable when Belle enters the story because before that I found him annoying.
The supporting cast all delivered strong performances as well. In fact, it seemed like there was more story to tell with Cécile, Noémie, and Corinne but it was quickly forgotten about without being resolved which seemed like a missed opportunity. They provided strong performances despite their stories not being properly explored.
I will give the film credit for having some amazing cinematography. The locations that they used for the farm look very colourful which made the film visually appealing to look at.
Belle & Sebastian: Next Generation is a film that has a sweet story and some nice sentiments but it sadly lets itself down by not having compelling characters that can keep you invested.
Belle & Sebastian: Next Generation is in cinemas now.